Need Of India For An Effective Refugee Law

Need Of India For An Effective Refugee Law

Aliza Abdin_JudicateMe


This Blog is written by Aliza Abdin from Integral University, LucknowEdited by Naina Agarwal.



India doesn’t recognize refugees and other outsiders entering the nation. We have to build up a reasonable policy to manage refugees.

The ongoing legitimate struggle in the Supreme Court of India between the Union Government and human rights activists over the previous’ declaration to deport 40,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees back to Myanmar has brought to the front the glaring nonappearance of a standard lawful system to manage refugees in our nation. The benefits of the Rohingya scene, in any case, the requirement for a legal structure that classifies the standard technique for passage/exit of refugees is appropriate, given the way that the absence of it grants the Parliament controls that can be handily mishandled to meet the short-sighted ends of the Government at the time. At the danger of being utilized as an instrument of populist submission, the rule of law must be summoned to keep the Parliament responsible and transparent.

This article will, in this way, spread out the contention for the rule of law, and address a portion of the rational fears that go with the entry of refugees.


India’s status as a preferred refugee haven is affirmed by the consistent progression of refugees from a significant number of its subcontinental neighbors as likewise from somewhere else. India keeps getting them despite its over-a-billion populace with at any rate 600,000,000 living in neediness with constrained access to essential amenities. Be that as it may, the Indian legal structure has no uniform law to manage its refugee populace, and has not gained any ground towards developing one either; up to that point, it decides to treat imminent refugees’ dependent on their national beginning and political contemplations, scrutinizing the consistency of rights and benefits allowed to refugee networks.

Without a doubt, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has presented various reports asking the declaration of national law, or possibly, making changes or then again corrections to the obsolete Foreigners Act (1946), which is the current law, counseled by specialists concerning refugees and asylum seekers. The essential furthermore, the most noteworthy lacuna in this law is that it doesn’t contain the term ‘refugee’; subsequently, under Indian Law, the word ‘foreigner’ is used to cover aliens’ temporary or permanent dwelling in the nation. These spots refugee people, alongside immigrants, and visitors in this general category, denying them of benefits accessible under the Geneva Convention. Despite these variables, the current number of refugee people and asylum seekers in India remains at around 435,900 as per the World Refugee Survey 2007 directed by the United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) and upheld by the most recent figures from the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR).

As per these sources, a new asylum for 2007 numbered around 17,900, in differentiation to the slight 600 recorded takeoffs from the nation. India, for the most part, plays host to refugee people from its neighboring countries who are either driven out of their lands of beginning because of inside or outer clash, political abuse, or human rights encroachments. India has offered shelter status to asylum seekers from countries like:

1) China: Refugees and asylum seekers from Tibet number around 110,000.

2) Nepal: Excluding migrant workers, the populace remains at 100,000 refugees. Anyway, this number isn’t typically considered a direct result of the Indo-Nepal Friendship Treaty.

3. Sri Lanka: The total quality of conflict-induced refugee people of Tamil root remains at 99,600.

4. Myanmar: Currently, 50,000 refugee people and refuge searchers.

5. Bangladesh: The mass migration following the 1971 war has come down to 35,000 after the repatriation of refugee people.

6. Afghanistan: 30,400 refugees and asylum seekers contained primarily Hindus and Sikhs.

7. Bhutan: The ethnic Nepalese populace settled in India adds up to 10,000 refugees and refugee searchers.

India isn’t a party to the 1951 Convention or the 1967 Protocol. An individual refugee is protected basically under India’s Constitution since there has been no domestic legislation passed regarding the matter of refugees. Yet, the provisions of these international treaties have now procured the status of customary international law and possibly viewed as consolidated into the domestic law to the degree of their consistency with the current municipal statutes and when there is a void in the city laws. Additionally, Article 51(c) of the Constitution of India advocates encouraging admiration for international law.


Constitutional Framework for Protection of Refugees

The Constitution of India ensures certain Fundamental Rights to refugees. To be specific, right to equality (Article 14), the right to life and personal liberty (Article 21), right to protection under arbitrary arrest (Article 22), right to protect in respect of conviction of offenses (Article 20), freedom of religion (Article 25), right to approach Supreme Court for enforcement of Fundamental Rights (Article 32), are as much accessible to non-citizens, including refugees, as they are to citizens.

The established rights ensure the social privileges of the refugee to live with respect. The liberal understanding that Article 21 has gotten now incorporates directly against solitary confinement, custodial violence, right to medical assistance, and shelter.

The Supreme Court has taken recourse to Article 21 of the Constitution without legislation to manage and legitimize refugees’ stay in India.

In reality, Article 21 of the Indian Constitution forces certain limitations: any activity of the State which denies an outsider of his or her life and personal liberty without a procedure established by law would fall foul of it, and such activity would incorporate the refoulement of refugees. In this way, the writer opined that the Court ought to have continued to test the legitimacy of the Foreigners Act as against Article 21.

Incorporating International Law in Domestic Law

International law has acknowledged and characterized refugees as an exceptional class of foreigners. Does this acknowledgment by International law import any lawful result on the Indian Government without any legislation regarding the matter?

The facts confirm that India has not approved the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol, notwithstanding, it consented to different Human Rights treaties and conventions that contain provisions identifying with refugees’ security. As involved with these treaties, India is under a legal obligation to ensure refugees’ human privileges by appropriate legislative and administrative measures under Article 51(c) and Article 253. Furthermore, under similar laws, it is under the obligation to maintain the standard of non-refoulment. India is a member of the Executive Committee of the workplace of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which puts a good, if not the lawful obligation, on it to assemble a useful organization with UNHCR by following the provisions of the 1951 Refugee Convention.

For embracing international conventions in domestic laws, in Vishaka v. Territory of Rajasthan, the Court observed that dependence could be set in international laws. Accordingly, the inquiry that emerges is whether India can allude to the 1951 Convention in deciphering the domestic legislation and whether it is imperative to approve these conventions. It is to be noticed that merely accepting the 1951 Convention doesn’t guarantee that the asylum seekers won’t be kept out. Article 42 of a similar Convention permits reservations as for the privileges of refugees, which will invalidate the point of sanctioning the Convention.

The answer for treating refugees with poise in India is to either endorse the 1951 Convention and join it into domestic law or sanction uniform legislation explicitly for refugees, so it isn’t left to the office’s attentiveness and the legal executive to choose their destiny.


In NHRC v. Territory of Arunachal Pradesh 1996 [AIR 1234, 1996 SCC (1) 742], the Government of Arunachal Pradesh was solicited to perform the duty of safeguarding the life, health, and well-being of Chakmas living in the State and that their application for citizenship ought to be sent to the specialists concerned and not retained.

In different cases, it was held that refugees should not be exposed to detention or deportation and that they are qualified to approach the U.N. High Commissioner for the award of refugee status. In P. Nedumaran v. Association of India [1993 (2) ALT 291, 1993 (2) ALT Cri 188], the requirement for voluntary nature of repatriation was underscored upon. The Court held that the UNHCR, being a world office, was to determine the intentionality of the refugees and, subsequently, it was not upon the Court to consider whether consent was deliberate. Additionally, as indicated by B. S. Chimni, the Supreme Court has failed in finishing up in Louis de Raedt v Union of India [1991 AIR 1886, 1991 SCR (3) 149] that there is no provision in the Constitution chaining the total and boundless intensity of the administration to remove foreigners under the Foreigners Act of 1946.


The status of refugees in India, albeit estimated by effective humanitarian relief and political acknowledgment, has next to no to do with these two variables. Minority governmental issues are a significant factor that can be utilized to clarify the hesitance of India’s lawmakers to move towards settling the matter. Illegal immigrants have been used by vote-chasing parties to secure a majority in the central and the state legislatures.

Opportunist sections of political groups in refugee populated regions have attempted to use these illegal immigrants as hostage vote-banks in trying to regularize their stay. In the instance of the illegal immigrants from Bangladesh in Assam, the nullification of the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act of 1983 has been ceaselessly vetoed by the decision Congress Party to make sure about the consistently developing ‘vote bank’ of immigrants they are getting even though they are not enrolled as citizens of India. It has been proposed that the presence of immigrants in India is useful for its interests as long as they stay unlawful immigrants, and the legislature doesn’t need to reply to international offices for their treatment. The role of political motives can’t be overlooked in the development of this impasse relating to the refugee populace dwelling in India. Be that as it may, since refugee protection is an international issue, concerns like these political motives are viewed as less significant than the danger presented by refugees to national security and financial strength, maybe to refute the role of political groups in this grim refugee circumstance. Provisions have been embedded in the proposed Indian refugee law guaranteeing that, “the decision to grant asylum is a humanitarian act that should be made without political considerations.”

Even though India’s past endeavors in managing mass influxes have been excellent, its international situation in the subcontinent makes it a favored goal for asylum and migrant workers. Also, India’s monetary resurgence and status as the only stable majority rule system make it an attractive destination for asylum seekers. More than everything else, this clarifies the cross-border development into India, which should be a motivation to outline a national refugee law, the requirement for which increments with each heightening in strife in the South Asian district. Asylum seekers from Sri Lanka, Tibet, and Myanmar will keep on looking for shelter as the political conflict in these nations has not stopped. With no practical designs to usher harmony within a reasonable time frame, the chance of repatriation also stays grim. Notwithstanding a populace of 435,000 refugees and refugee searchers, there are roughly 600,000 inside uprooted people, most of who are the Hindu Pundit people group, in the past occupant in the Kashmir Valley.

The requirement for a refugee law is prompt. The uniform treatment of refugees is an unquestionable requirement as long as India keeps on tolerating asylum seekers over its permeable broader. The limitations and inconsistent treatment forced on the refugee populace by the Indian Government is biased and discolors its human rights record, which isn’t extraordinary regardless. Article 3, subsection 2, clause (e) of the Foreigner’s Act (1946), contains a rundown of nine orders epitomizing government guidelines on rights and freedom that the Convention ensures.


Figures recorded by UNHCR toward the end of December 2014 state that around 31,000 refugees and asylum seekers enlisted in India (this is barring the vast number of Tibetan and Lankan refugees who were granted refugee status throughout the years). A further breakdown of these refugee numbers recommends that a dominant part of them are Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar (14,300), individuals from Afghanistan (10,395), Somalia (654), and different nations like Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, and so on… (516).

The sorry condition of numerous Rohingya Muslims living in shanty camps across urban Delhi, Jammu, Hyderabad, and Chennai are a befitting guide to feature how India’s lack of engagement in planning a valid refugee strategy has prompted erratic rights given to these individuals. While 2,970 Rohingya Muslims are formally allowed shelter in India, they are a dominant part of these individuals, despite everything relying upon refugee endorsements granted by the UNHCR.

Neglecting to procure any productive work dependent on these declarations, the majority of them gain their methods by cloth picking, distributing, day by day wage work, or other casual segment occupations. The absence of legitimate characters and archives renders them defenseless to try and purchase SIM cards for their cell phones. India has also chosen to deport around 40,000 (unofficial estimates) Rohingyas back to Myanmar, even as the ongoing move is being considered unsympathetic and infringing upon international non-refoulement strategy.

The Rohingya Muslims are the most mistreated community on the planet, as indicated by the U.N. They structure an ethnic minority in the Rakhine province of Myanmar. They are escaping the danger of sectarian brutality and violence from their Government (which has abandoned them as Bangladeshis) and military. They could even face demise whenever repatriated. In this circumstance, the expelling of Rohingyas from Indian soil can’t be supported, while refugees from different nations like Afghanistan and Somalia are being treated well.


From an examination perspective and thinking about the touchy idea of our subject, it is critical to comprehend that giving asylum to refugees is the most humanitarian act to be attempted by all the countries of the world to improve the world. These are individuals searching for a departure from the wars, genocide, or social and religious persecution. The outlook of refugees is amazingly propelled, venturesome, and healthy, and all they are searching for is a protected place to live and develop with their families.

India has so far managed circumstances of mass influx without a refugee law however with a ceaselessly extending populace of refugees and asylum seekers, a large area of who may not be repatriated soon, and a uniform statute would permit the administration to keep up its gigantic non-citizen populace with greater responsibility and request, aside from allowing them to appreciate uniform rights and benefits. A regional treaty can be valuable in improving ties with its neighbors, in any case, India will be better positioned by having its law inferable from the massive number of various communities that it has, and the unsteady relations that it imparts to a few of its neighbors.

In the end, it can be concluded with these words: “While every refugee’s story is different and their anguish personal, they all share a common thread of uncommon courage – the courage not only to survive but to persevere and rebuild their shattered lives.”- (Antonio Guterres, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees)


(1) List I (Union List) Entry 14 – confers on the Parliament exclusive power to make laws concerning “entering into treaties and agreements with foreign countries and implementing treaties, agreements, and conventions with foreign countries.

(2) Entry 17. Speaks about citizenship, naturalization and aliens;

(3) Entry 18. Speaks about Extradition;

(4) Entry 19. Speaks about Admission into and Emigration & Expulsion from, India; passport and visas.

(5) List III (Concurrent List) Entry 27 – speaks about Relief and Rehabilitation of persons displaced from their original place of residence because of the setting up of the Dominions of India & Pakistan.

(6) Part II – Citizenship Articles 5 to 11: These Articles provide for Rights of Citizenship of migrants from Pakistan; Rights of Citizenship of migrants to Pakistan; Rights of citizenship of certain persons of Indian origin residing outside India; voluntary acquisition of other citizenship and Parliamentary rights to regulate citizenship.



(9) The case is pending before the National Human Rights Commission of India, 13 August 1997.

(10) D. Pancholi vs. State of Punjab & Others [WP (Civil) No. 1294 of 1987, unreported)].


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